Amory Lovins and Richard Branson join forces to mitigate climate issues

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Amory Lovins speaks at an Indiana University Kelley School of Business symposium in Indianapolis in 2007. Photo © 2007 BlairPhotoEVV

December 18, 2014 – by Jules Kortenhorst, CEO and José Maria Figueres, chairman of the Board, Rocky Mountain Institute. Editor’s note: Amory Lovins is the founder of RMI and in my mind is the guru of energy futures throughout the world.

The stark impacts of climate change are visible seemingly everywhere—from the devastating Pakistan floods in 2010, to the destruction of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, to the drought and wildfires in California and Australia this year. The world’s experts say these events are becoming more severe, causing annual losses of $200 billion—a quadrupled toll in thirty years. Humankind is almost certainly on a path to cross the 2-degree-Celsius threshold most climate scientists agree we must stay below to forestall the worst effects of global warming.

We need an energy revolution now. Which is why the alliance between Carbon War Room (CWR) and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—two leading NGOs working on market-based solutions for a clean economy—is so crucial. There is a unique window of opportunity to accelerate the energy transformation to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future for us all. As an alliance, RMI and CWR can build on our historic results, and focus on amplifying our impact beyond the sum of what we can do independently. Continue reading

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Merry Christmas from a Beijing Flash Mob Chorus and Valley Watch.

December 15, 2014- by FMCtaiwan, via the universal language of  YouTube

Valley Watch wants to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers and supporters the best of holiday seasons and a successful 2015. We hope you enjoy this inspirational video from a Flash Mob Chorus in Beijing.

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Ten Things You Need to Know if You Burn Wood

December 1, 2014-by Josh Schlossberg in the Biomass Monitor

woodstove_smoke_0Wood heating is on the rise. 2.7 million U.S. households, making up roughly 2% of the population, are projected to burn wood as a primary heating source over the winter of 2014-2015, a 3.9% increase from the previous year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Approximately 7.7% of households use a wood or pellet stove as a secondary heating source, based on 2012 census data.

In every state except for the balmy locales of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Hawaii, wood heating has increased over the last decade, largely due to lower costs in comparison to oil and local sourcing opportunities.

Despite some recent advances in stove technology, wood heating still involves combustion, a process that emits air pollutants that have been linked to various health concerns. With the recent uptick in residential and industrial wood burning, it’s in the public’s best interest to be mindful of the risks that come from stoking up the stove.

1) Respiratory Problems

Residential wood burning “greatly increases” the amount of particulate matter (PM) in the air, pollutants smaller in diameter than a human hair, that can lodge deep inside the lungs, as well as enter the bloodstream and organs. Exposure to particulate matter can result in “aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, non-fatal heart attacks, and premature death,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). PM can also trigger emphysema and strokes, with children, the elderly, sufferers of lung and heart disease, and those of lower income at highest risk.

A study by the California Air Resources Board reported that “wood smoke can cause a 10 percent increase of hospital admissions for respiratory problems among children, who are at most risk since their lungs are still developing.” Particulate matter can harm lungs during only a four hour exposure and cause even greater damage over the long-term.

The chance of premature death is 17% more likely in cities with high particulates compared to those with cleaner air, with every increase of 50 µg/m3 (microgram per square meter) of PM into the air resulting in a 6% spike in deaths and 18.5% increase in hospital admissions results, according to a study from the Harvard School of Public Health. In some cases, up to 90% of PM pollution can come from residential burning, with wood smoke regularly responsible for half of the California Bay area’s winter PM pollution.

Other health concerns related to wood smoke include “irritated eyes, throat, sinuses, and lungs; headaches; reduced lung function, especially in children; lung inflammation or swelling; increased risk of lower respiratory diseases; more severe or frequent symptoms from existing lung diseases.”

Health costs related to wood smoke particulate matter in the U.S. have been estimated at up to $150 billion a year.

2) Carcinogenic 

Despite wood’s natural origin, wood smoke includes known carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), with studies demonstrating that wood smoke can cause lung cancer. Continue reading

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“Unbridled Consumerism…will have serious consequences for the world economy,” Pope Francis

November 6, 2014- Pope Francis, from the Vatican

To the Honourable Tony Abbott
Prime Minister of Australia

On 15 and 16 November next in Brisbane you will chair the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the world’s twenty largest economies, thus bringing to a close Australia’s presidency of the Group over the past year.  This presidency has proved to be an excellent opportunity for everyone to appreciate Oceania’s significant contributions to the management of world affairs and its efforts to promote the constructive integration of all countries.SNN1604P--620_1728824a

The G20 agenda in Brisbane is highly focused on efforts to relaunch a sustained and sustainable growth of the world economy, thereby banishing the spectre of global recession.  One crucial point that has emerged from the preparatory work is the fundamental imperative of creating dignified and stable employment for all.  This will call for improvement in the quality of public spending and investment, the promotion of private investment, a fair and adequate system of taxation, concerted efforts to combat tax evasion and a regulation of the financial sector which ensures honesty, security and transparency.

I would ask the G20 Heads of State and Government not to forget that many lives are at stake behind these political and technical discussions, and it would indeed be regrettable if such discussions were to remain purely on the level of declarations of principle.  Throughout the world, the G20 countries included, there are far too many women and men suffering from severe malnutrition, a rise in the number of the unemployed, an extremely high percentage of young people without work and an increase in social exclusion which can lead to criminal activity and even the recruitment of terrorists.  In addition, there are constant assaults on the natural environment, the result of unbridled consumerism, and this will have serious consequences for the world economy.   Continue reading

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A bit of nature to warm the heart on a cold day

November 12, 2014- by 13natureHD

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Is pollution to blame for autism? Researchers say breathing toxic air in the first two years of life linked to disorder

October 23, 2014 – In the MailOnlineEditor’s note: Southwest Indiana  is virtually inundated with toxic emissions from metals and plastics manufacturing and coal fired power plants. According to the USEPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, emissions from power plants alone exceed 40,000,000 pounds per year.

Pollution could be a factor in autism, researchers have found.

They say children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were more likely to have been exposed to higher levels of certain air toxics during their mothers’ pregnancies and the first two years of life compared.

Photo © 2010 John Blair.

Photo © 2010 John Blair.

The find could help explain the rise in cases.

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were more likely to have been exposed to higher levels of polluted air during their mothers’ pregnancies and the first two years of life.

AUTISM: A GROWING PROBLEM

Autism spectrum disorders are a range of conditions characterized by social deficits and communication difficulties that typically become apparent early in childhood.

Reported cases of ASD have risen nearly eight-fold in the last two decades.

While previous studies have shown the increase to be partially due to changes in diagnostic practices and greater public awareness of autism, this does not fully explain the increased prevalence.

Both genetic and environmental factors are believed to be partially responsible.

The investigation of children in southwestern Pennsylvania will be presented today at the American Association for Aerosol Research annual meeting in Orlando.

Continue reading

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An American Queen graced the region on a beautiful day, today.

October 21, 2014 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

The American Queen cruised by Henderson today. Evansville misses out on these grand boats landing here because we made the Riverfront as boater unfriendly as we could, discouraging museum and other watercraft from docking here. That could be changed but there seems to be little interest from any elected officials to do so. It is sad to miss out on such opportunities.

A large "excursion boat makes it way down river near Dead Man's Island near Henderson, KY. © 2014 BlairPhotoEVV

The American Queen makes it way down river near Dead Man’s Island near Henderson, KY. © 2014 BlairPhotoEVV

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Check out the updated 2014 Valley Watch Nature Photo Album

October 9, 2014 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

IMGP0607a web

We just updated the valleywatch.net 2014 Nature Photo Album with some really nice pictures of colorful closeups of bugs. While you are there, we recommend browsing all the Nature Photo Albums of the last nine years. All photos are © BlairPhotoEVV, please respect.

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Blair Steals Show at Ground Breaking December 19, 1985

October 2, 2014 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

This is a video shot by Fred McCool and Leonard Judd for WEHT-TV on December 19, 1985. Music and Editing were by then WEHT anchor, Paul Morrison.

It shows me, John Blair, “stealing” the ground breaking shovels for Union Carbide’s nefarious “PCB Removal Plant” at the Henderson, KY Riverport.

I was opposed to the construction of the hazards waste plant because it was not prudent for this region to invite the hazardous waste industry into our midst. We knew that without a fight, there would be others to follow. I was charged with disorderly conduct and later plead guilty to the charge ( I was disorderly, after all ) and spent a night in the Henderson County jail and paid a $ 150 fine. For that punishment, we also received a huge level of good publicity for our battle.

The plant was built and operated for less than five years because our opposition sustained and it became clear to all that Union Carbide, which killed thousands in Bhopal, India in 1984 in an industrial mishap, was not a good neighbor.

John Blair, environmental activist, is arrested after his attempt to "steal" the ground breaking shovels for the Union Carbide PCB Removal Plant in Henderson, KY. Photo @ Dan Patmore

John Blair, environmental activist, is arrested after his attempt to “steal” the ground breaking shovels for the Union Carbide PCB Removal Plant in Henderson, KY. Photo @ Dan Patmore

As a result of our fight, three years later, we were able to successfully oppose a proposal by BASF Corp. to place a hazardous waste incinerator in the community as well as several new coal plant proposals in the early years of this century.

I learned a great deal about Civil Disobedience with my action.
1. It must be non-violent;
2. It is always better when it is “active” versus “passive,” and:
3. It should be as symbolic as you can make it so that people will easily understand why you feel compelled to do an act that most people would never do on their own.

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Bell Telephone Science Hour discusses Photovoltaics in 1954 and a bit of local history

October 1, 2014-by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

This video definitively shows that solar electricity had its roots more than 60 years ago. A few years later, I was working in a Rexall drug store and we had a promotion of a new solar powered transistor radio that really fascinated me. That was probably 1961.

In 1978, the predecessor to Valley Watch, the “Nuclear Waste Action Committee” sponsored Sun Day where several solar businesses displayed their wares on the Walkway across from the Civic Center.

In 1980, The Ohio Valley Solar Society, headed by local engineer, Mike Murphy, had a two day Solar Exhibition at Vanderburgh Auditorium ( now Old National Events Plaza ) which featured solar energy proponents and merchants from the region.

Throughout the early part of the 1980s, numerous solar advocates built homes using a variety of “passive” and “active” solar technologies. Murphy, Jim Morgan of Midwest Roofing, Arkla Industries and a team consisting of Paul Fulkerson and John Barabe built high quality homes that were able to compete in the residential market and save people energy dollars over their life.

This school near Bowling Green, KY was outfitted by Evansville, Morton Solar and Wind and is actually not only saving energy but adding to the grid especially during the summer months when school is not in session. Photo © 2012 BLairPhotoEVV

This school near Bowling Green, KY was outfitted by Evansville’s, Morton Solar and Wind and is actually not only saving energy but adding to the grid especially during the summer months when school is not in session. Photo © 2012 BlairPhotoEVV

Sadly, Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 and the burgeoning business of solar was brought to a halt. In fact, Reagan’s Energy Secretary, dentist, James Edwards was quoted saying the “Solar energy has t make it in the marketplace,” and thus the meager subsidies offered to solar and other renewables were dropped and the massive subsidies for oil, coal and nuclear energy were increased. Solar panels that were placed on the Whitehouse during the Carter years were removed under Reagan whose corporate allies could see that distributed energy like solar and wind would impact their chosen monopolistic business models.

Since then solar has made steady but slow gains but thirty years of development including new panels on the Whitehouse, and we see solar now at an affordable cost and greatly less expensive than new coal or nuclear plants.

 

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A bad year for coal but not because of government regs

Larger than life BW PosterBWSeptember 26, 2014 – by Jacob Barker in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

It was supposed to be a better year for U.S. coal producers.

But railroad congestion, a mild summer and indications that coal prices have yet to hit bottom have all conspired against the fuel, while cheap and plentiful natural gas continues to put pressure on the industry in the U.S.

U.S. coal producers have seen their share prices hit especially hard in the last several months. Though environmental rules are making new coal plants prohibitively expensive and leading to the closure of some older plants, it’s really market conditions — oversupply and the advent of cheap natural gas — that are hitting coal miners hardest, said Ken Colburn, a senior associate at the Regulatory Assistance Project who specializes in air regulations.

“I don’t think this is an easy cakewalk necessarily, but nothing the (Environmental Protection Agency) does will lead to the kind of impact on coal as a fuel that the market is having,”

Huge mining machines called draglines are used to scoop up more than 150 cubic yards of earth with each pass. Strip mining is one of the most destructive things that man has done to the earth. Photo © 2010 John Blair.

Huge mining machines called draglines are used to scoop up more than 150 cubic yards of earth with each pass. Strip mining is one of the most destructive things that man has done to the earth. Photo © 2010 John Blair.

Colburn said. “I think the EPA is probably enjoying a scenario where the market is doing a lot of its work for it in terms of its concerns about coal-based emissions.”

Influential investment bank Goldman Sachs released a report last week predicting a fall of thermal coal prices. The bank also wasn’t optimistic that long depressed prices for metallurgical coal, used in steelmaking, would improve.

“They typically derive most of their profits from metallurgical coal,” said Kirk McDonald, an analyst with Clayton-based Argent Capital Management who follows materials and energy. “Especially with what is happening in China, domestically there, they’re producing less steel now.”

The Goldman report highlighted the continued concerns about the industry, said Kristoffer Inton, an analyst with Morningstar.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Early this year, conventional wisdom said the industry would see a reprieve due to an exceptionally cold winter that led to more coal and electricity usage, drawing down utility stockpiles. Instead, it was so cold that some railroads were damaged, compounding the already strained network that now carries fuels competing with coal: shale oil and gas.

Continue reading

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Valley Watch, colleagues finally win one in an Indiana court

September 8, 2014 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

On Monday, September 8, 2014, Valley Watch, along with steadfast colleagues, Citizens Action Coalition, Sierra Club and Save the Valley, achieved a rare victory in the Indiana Court of Appeals. BIRD WO ADDRESSbevel

Duke Energy expects its customers to pay for its mismanagement, fraud and cost overruns at its nefarious, Edwardsport Generating Station in Knox County. In nearly ever one of the thirteen “dockets” Duke has initiated before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, whatever Duke has proposed has been pretty much rubber stamped by the Commission.

That was the case, even when then Governor Mitch Daniels was forced to fire the Chair of the Commission, David Hardy,

David Lott Hardy declares his support for Duke's then proposed plant at the "Energy Summit of Southwest Indiana" the day after he presided over a public hearing in Bloomington that discussed the plant's future. Photo © 2007 John Blair

David Lott Hardy declares his support for Duke’s then proposed plant at the “Energy Summit of Southwest Indiana” the day after he presided over a public hearing in Bloomington that discussed the plant’s future. Photo © 2007 John Blair

under serious ethics violations due to the cozy relationship Hardy had with Duke management. In that scandal. Hardy’s protege, Scott Storms, who served as Chief Administrative Law Judge in many of the dockets applied for and got a job as Duke attorney while continuing to oversee the numerous cases.

Duke and the Daniels Administration pretty much ignored the reality of the cost of building the project (hear Valley Watch president, John Blair’s testimony before the IURC in a field hearing in August of 2007 in which he predicts, accurately, the future cost involved in building the plant here). Originally, Duke and Daniels claimed the plant would cost only $1.985 Billion but the final cost has risen to over $3.5 billion

In one of the recent dockets, the coalition of the four groups, each of which has intervened in all the rate cases, knew they had been screwed by the Commission and took the case to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals determined that the commission had failed in its duty to protect ratepayers and that they should revisit a significant decision that had ratepayers pay $61 million to Duke for a plant that has yet to operate correctly in the more than a year it has been in service.

James Atterholt, currently serves as Chief Of Staff for Indiana Governor, Mike Pence was chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.  Photo © 2011 John Blair

James Atterholt, currently serves as Chief Of Staff for Indiana Governor, Mike Pence was chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Photo © 2011 John Blair

Currently, Duke is suing the constructor, Bechtel,  and equipment manufacturer , General Electric and both of them have in turn sued Duke in what has become a morass of attorneys and lawsuits.

It is anticipated that Duke will seek a re-hearing by the Court of Appeals or transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Valley Watch has long fought stupid ideas like Edwardsport, using mostly economic arguments to make our case. Unfortunately, the level of cronyism in Indiana’s government and the revolving door between government and the industry government is supposed to regulate, has precluded mush success over the seven years this case has been open.

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Finally, after several days of BAD air, IDEM issues an air quality alert of SW Indiana

August 27, 2014 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

In case you have not noticed, lately, air quality has been pretty bad around Evansville for several days now. Yesterday, afternoon, fine particles reached a horrible level- 63.97µg/m3, almost twice the outdated 24 hour health standard of 35µg/m3. And they remained high throughout the evening and into today.

UPDATE: This is the "near real-tine data for August 27 that was available at 5 PM. Obviously, it shows a serious problem. Data can be found at:http://idem.tx.sutron.com/cgi-bin/daily_summary.pl and lookingg for the Buena Vista monitor

UPDATE: This is the “near real-tine data for August 27 that was available at 5 PM. Obviously, it shows a serious problem. Data can be found at:http://idem.tx.sutron.com/cgi-bin/daily_summary.pl and lookingg for the Buena Vista monitor.

Levels were particularly high during practice and game time for school age athletes and band members who were not even aware that they were being subjected to such foul air.

Valley Watch has long sought a policy from the local school corporations to forego practices and games when air quality is an issue.

Our pleas have basically been dismissed by school officials and last night as particulate rose to high levels, kids were practicing and playing their chosen sports with the same intensity they would have been if the air quality had been healthy instead of unhealthy.

Health science is replete with knowledge that high particulate cause such issues as stroke, asthma, cancer, heart attacks, etc. and students whose lungs are not fully developed are  vulnerable to being negatively impacted by high levels of pollution.

Valley Watch suggests that you call your local school board members demanding that they develop some sort of health based policy to deal with games and practices when air quality is poor in the region. And such a policy should not be only when an air pollution “alert’ is in place but when levels are bad enough to cause harm.

The reason for that caveat is that local and state environment officials have often failed to issue timely alerts until after the air quality has become dangerous, like yesterday when no alert was issued at all.

It is our view that schools should call off games and practices when air quality is bad, whether it is particles or ozone or any of the criteria pollutants. Further, since the local EPA has a record of failing to call alerts when they should, there should be someone in each school system to monitor air quality on days when the air is visible like it has been for the last week and when it gets near the health based standard for any criteria pollutant, they should act with haste to protect their students’ health first and foremost.

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The absolute best five minutes of your day – Birds of Paradise

August 25, 2014 – by the Birds of Pardise Project-New Guinea, Cornell University

Words are not necessary to describe this wonderful photography

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Duke Energy spills from 5,000 to 8,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the Ohio River near Cincinnati

August 19, 2014  – UPDATE- USEPA serving as on-scene coordinator in Emergency Response to Ohio River Spill EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is serving as the Federal On-Scene Coordinator for the emergency response to an oil spill that occurred last night when approximately 3500 gallons of diesel fuel was released into the Ohio River from Duke Energy’s Beckjord power plant. Twenty-four hour operations are underway to contain and clean up oil along a 12 mile stretch of the Ohio River immediately upstream from Cincinnati.

“U.S. EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard and Ohio EPA quickly mobilized and are taking a series of steps to minimize the damage this spill does to the Ohio River and surrounding communities,” said U.S. EPA Incident Commander Steven Renninger. “U.S. EPA is on the scene to ensure the leaked oil is contained and cleaned up as quickly and effectively as possible.”

A containment boom is deployed on the Ohio River to deal with a fuel oil spill. (Photo by Dwayne Slavey)

A containment boom is deployed on the Ohio River to deal with a fuel oil spill. (Photo by Dwayne Slavey)

U.S. EPA has established a unified command with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Pierce Township. U.S. EPA is directing response efforts carried out by Duke Energy. Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, U.S. EPA has the responsibility for inland oil spills.   

Boom was deployed in the Ohio River to contain the spill. Sheen extends approximately 12 miles from Duke’s plant down the Ohio River toward Cincinnati. The U.S. Coast Guard closed 15 miles of the river to vessel traffic.

As a precaution, the Greater Cincinnati Waterworks and the Northern Kentucky Water District each closed drinking water intakes on the Ohio River. The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission is conducting water sampling on the river.

For updates on the response to this oil spill, go to www.epa.gov/region5/newsevents/duke-energy-spill/

August 19, 2014 – by Lisa Benson, Cincinnati Business Courier

Duke Energy reported a significant spill of diesel fuel into the Ohio River on Monday night.Dupe-Energy-Logo-trans

According to a company statement, about 5,000 gallons of fuel spilled into the waterway during a routine transfer of fuel oil at the W.C. Beckjord Station. The Clermont County power plant is about 20 miles east of the city of Cincinnati. It is slated to close by Jan. 1, 2015.

The spill lasted about 15 minutes and was stopped at 11:30 p.m., according to Duke. The Charlotte, N.C.-based energy company is working with local, state and environmental agencies.

“We notified state and local authorities of the incident and have been working with them throughout the overnight hours,” saidChuck Whitlock, Duke Energy president of Midwest Commercial Generation and vice president of gas operations. “We have cleanup crews on site that are identifying the appropriate actions that will be needed to remediate.”

The Hamilton County Emergency management Agency reported that the U.S. Coast Guard has closed a 15-mile section of the river (between river miles 453 and 468). Three public water intakes between the Beckjord plant and the Licking River confluence are shut down, as well.

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